HANDEL Giulio Cesare 0743859

Moshe Laiser and Patrice Gaurier designed and staged this production, and they did so with taste and humor . . . And the cast is perfection. All of the singers are masters of their arts. Cecilia Bartoli is amazing as Cleopatra, and both counter tenors are perfect displaying both agility and beauty of tone . . . [Anne Sophie von Otter] is a fine Cornelia. And they can act, too! The Il Gardino Armonici is a virtuoso ensemble, with particularly brilliant horns who negotiate their countless treacherous tasks admirably. This is a terrific show, not just for lovers of baroque opera . . . remarkable . . .

. . . an impressively starry cast and eloquent music-making under Giovanni Antonini's baton. Cecilia Bartoli steals the show as Cleopatra, but Anne Sofie von Otter isn't far behind as Cornelia, and countertenor Andreas Scholl makes a kingly Caesar . . . Hi-def audio and video are first-rate.

. . . [Bartoli's] singing is wonderful and she acts with gusto. Also making a strong impression is Anne Sofie von Otter as Cornelia . . . More impressive are the vengeful Sextus of Philippe Jaroussky and the sleazy Ptolemy of Christophe Dumaux . . . Conductor Giovanni Antonini ably leads the Milanese ensemble Il Giardino Armonico.

. . . musically, this production is one of the best one might ever hope to hear . . . Bartoli is a phenomenon -- a genuine mezzo, with a very convincing soprano upward extension. It should come as no surprise to Bartoli fans that she manages the high-speed virtuosity of the aria "Da tempeste il legno infranto" with incomparable ease, but even keen admirers may be amazed at her performance of "Piangerò la sorte mia" . . . Bartoli demonstrates a command of phrasing and beauty of tone that is heartbreaking, not to mention an execution of the elaborate ornamentation that is a veritable master class in how to sing this music . . . Swedish mezzo-soprano von Otter is no less impressive in the role of Cornelia, as she shows us how a great lieder singer can imbue a seemingly simple or repetitive Baroque line with meaning and expressiveness . . . As Cornelia's son Sesto, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky gives a superb performance, producing a real soprano sound -- pure, controlled, and capable of the utmost delicacy when required. The duet between mother and son at the end of Act I in which von Otter and Jaroussky combine their voices in almost uncanny harmony is one of the highlights of this production. Due credit must be given to Leiser and Caurier for finding just the right gestures and stage movements to underscore the pathos of this scene . . . No praise is too high for the work done by Giovanni Antonioni and his orchestra. One clearly hears the results of what must have been long hours of preparation to execute each phrase and each ornament with such perfection. Choice of tempi, whether fast or slow or somewhere in between, seemed just right throughout the performance, and the singers and pit players were as one throughout. Special mention must be made of the unnamed horn player who provided the wonderful obbligato during Caesar's aria "Va tacito e nascosto" in Act I, complete with a terrific cadenza in which singer and hornist toss imitative phrases back and forth.

. . . the big plus here is Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra . . . Her grasp of theatrics and audio pyrotechnics is better than anyone since Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price. She completely consumes any scene she's in and is impossible to upstage. "Giulio Cesare in Egitto" is no exception. In the tender aria "V'adoro pupille" she is Caesar's fantasy lover, not yet revealed as Cleopatra, and expresses her feelings beguilingly over muted strings . . . Other singers also fare very well in this production. The dedicated and intense soprano Anne Sofie von Otter puts in an excellent performance as the long-suffering Cornelia . . . Countertenors Andreas Scholl (Caesar) and Philippe Jaroussky (Sextus) both do well in it, Scholl being more of a dramatic countertenor than the lyrical Jaroussky . . . I commend the staging for its modern setting in the war-torn Mideast . . . this fascinating long opera is worth seeing at least twice. The audio is excellent for a live Performance . . .

Much of the singing is excellent. I particularly liked Anne Sofie von Otter as Pompey¿s widow Cornelia and Philippe Jaroussky as his son Sesto.

. . . the redoubtable Cecilia Bartoli tapped a stellar cast, an outstanding conductor and orchestra . . . The result, captured on this DVD, is breathtaking music-making . . . Bartoli, bless her, appears to have the time of her life. (When does she not?) Her instrument, supple and fierce, limns the role of Cleopatra with agility, precision and an emotional sincerity . . . With a silvery filigree of sound that easily rides over the orchestra, she appears to take "Se pieta di me non senti" in a single breath . . . [Andreas Scholl] sounds fresh and youthful, and his coloratura contains none of the smudges or negotiated runs that might suggest his muscular countertenor is in anything but pristine shape. "Al lampo dell'armi" burns with youthful vigor and moral certitude, and his handling of slow recits is particularly fine . . . [Philippe Jaroussky] stops the show with "Cara speme." With ornamentation that feels entirely in character, it's one the best examples of Handelian singing to be heard since Lorraine Hunt Lieberson . . . His quick vibrato contrasting nicely with the other countertenors, Dumaux sounds fabulous . . . Giovanni Antonini leads period-instrument ensemble Il Gardino Armonico through a thrilling performance of Handel's score.

The Salzburg cast is as glamorous a team as one is likely to have heard in recent years, and every member is fully invested in his or her part . . . [Kowalski] gives a surprisingly dignified and moving performance without a trace of camp. Bass Ruben Drole, as Ptolemy's henchman Achillas, is also quite moving in his death scene . . . Ptolemy himself is sung and acted with stylish flamboyance by Christophe Dumaux . . . Jaroussky's luminous high countertenor sails through most of his music with ease, and he portrays the teenager 's tormented ambivalence with touching sensitivity . . . [von Otter's] phasing and word-pointing are as eloquent as ever . . . [Scholl's] lush instrument sits comfortably in the low tessitura of his part (written for the alto castrato Senesino), and he sounds handsome and impressive in the grand lyrical moments such as the accompanied recitative in act I and the big, noble aria ("Aure, deh, per pieta") from act III . . . Cleopatra, as enacted by Bartoli, has bags of temperament, a voluptuously beautiful appearance, and the kind of lustrously vibrant timbre (combined with peerlessly idiomatic diction) that we have longed to hear in this most sensually "Italian" of Baroque soprano roles . . . Its greatest moments come, in fact, at two of the most serious points in the opera -- near the end of act II, when Cleopatra reflects on her deepening feelings for her now-imperiled lover, and in that haunting "Piangeró" solo from act III, where (singing through a sack, remember!) Bartoli concentrates the natural vibrancy of her voice to produce a tone of the most extraordinary purity and intensity . . . This performance, then, is best described as a major festival event for which no expense has been spared, and in which a great deal of talent has been assembled.

Andreas Scholl sings splendidly as Cesare . . . Anne Sofie von Otter's moving lament "Priva son d'ogni conforto" is that much more compelling because of her statuesque stillness amidst the theatrical carnage whilst, as Sesto, Jaroussky's athleticism and laser-focused countertenor is another sizeable vocal asset: his "Cara speme" is excellent. Together their duet "Son nata" that ends Act I is one of the best elements of the whole production . . . Bartoli gives full rein to her Bartolisms in what is not one of the best-known arias, "Tutto può donna vezzosa" but she brings to it immense zest and coloratura brilliance, with a dramatic array of fluidity and theatricality . . . Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini naturally escape censure; they play with personality and conviction. Recitatives are well paced . . .

. . . ein Stimmenspektakel der Extraklasse. Nicht nur die grandiose Cecilia Bartoli brillierte in der Rolle der Cleopatra, es glänzte auch die Elite der Countertenöre - neben Andreas Scholl als Cesare und Philippe Jaroussky als Sesto auch Christophe Dumaux als Cleopatras Bruder Tolomeo.

. . . [Cecilia Bartoli] est sans doute l'une des plus belles Cléopâtre de toute la discographie, loin des soubrettes auxquelles on a coutume de confier le personnage. Bartoli est reine par la richesse de son timbre, qu'elle sait parfaitement alléger au besoin, par la noblesse de son désespoir et, ce qui ne gâte rien, par le naturel de son italien. Autour d'elle, tous n'atteignent pas le même degré d'incandescence . . . Sesto assez idéal de Philippe Jaroussky, dont chacune des interventions est un instant de grâce, qu'il exprime l'angoisse de "Svegliatevi nel core" ou la sérénité de "Cara speme" . . . Dans la fosse, l'oreille est constamment sollicitée par l'art avec laquelle Giovanni Antonini dirige son Giardino Armonico, où l'on admire notamment l'énergie des airs emportés, comme cet "Empio dirò tu sei" où la véhémence des instruments ne trouve hélas guère de répondant chez César.

. . . [Philippe Jaroussky]: pure merveille, son phrasé dans l'élégiaque "Cara speme" . . . [c'est] le sommet vocal de la soirée, pour l'intensité de la ligne, l'égalité dense du timbre, l'autorité faite rayonnement . . . [Andreas Scholl]: le mordant de la vocalise et les couleurs forcent plus que le respect. Face à lui, le troisième contre-ténor, Christophe Dumaux, en impose une nouvelle fois en Ptolémée . . . Passionnant.